Following a series of evictions worldwide, including that of the camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral, the Occupy movement is actively assessing its modes of organising and thinking about how these might be developed in the next phase of the movement.
Here in the UK, the eviction of the St Paul’s camp has revived age-old debates on the left about the strengths and limits of horizontal, non-hierarchical organising. Alongside acknowledgement of Occupy’s massive success in putting a structural critique of the financial system on the public agenda, many sympathisers are repeating the same critical questions: what are the demands? what is the strategy? did it make a difference?
Of course these are important questions, but they are rooted in an understanding of politics focused overwhelmingly on immediate and institutionalised results. Occupy is not a political lobbying organisation trying to formulate policy messages to communicate to elites. Assessing it solely on these terms misses a whole dimension of the change that Occupy and other horizontal spaces are advancing. This involves a lasting social transformation – a slow but sticky building of empowerment, political voice and expectations of political involvement, and skills and methods of collective organising that can be shared with others and transferred to other spaces. This transformation, hidden in cultural forms, is an essential prerequisite to securing lasting political change. But it is hard to measure, or even see happening, and therefore often undervalued.
How, for example, could we measure the potential for change created by the debates and workshops in the ‘Tent City University’? Or the personal transformations experienced by those who engaged in participative decision making for the first time in their lives in the general assemblies? What about those who learnt other new practical and organising skills that they will take to the next occupation, protest or mobilisation and help make that stronger and more effective? Clues to potential answers lie in comparable movements of the recent past. Significant numbers of people trained and empowered through the Climate Camp network play key catalyst roles in UK Uncut, the student movement and Occupy, to name only a few.
It is important to ensure that the lessons emerging from Occupy inform the future of the struggle against corporate power. In this issue, Josh Healey reports on experiences from Occupy Oakland that highlight what he sees as some of the limits of non-hierarchical organising, including how small groups have taken the banner of Occupy Oakland towards more violent tactics, which he argues has served to undermine its popular base.
Elsewhere this issue looks at other attempts to build democratic and participatory counter institutions. One such model is that of co-operatives, which Robin Murray argues can form the basis of an alternative, more equitable, more people-centred economy. As with Occupy, a big part of the transformative potential of co-ops lies in the ongoing process that co-operative members engage in as individuals and collectives. Of course, co-ops also have potential to deliver very concrete economic change: greater worker control over and participation in business decision-making usually goes hand in hand with greater wage equality, more dignified and fulfilling working lives, and greater accountability of businesses to local communities. In summary, co-operatives are one of the key ways by which we can, as John Holloway puts it, ‘stop creating capitalism’.
However, there is no guarantee that individual co-ops will act in broader societal interests and not solely in the interests of their members. The experience of US energy co‑operatives which supported coal and nuclear power and the Conservatives’ drive to use co-ops as a cover for dismantling the public sector are evidence of this. Ensuring that the co-op movement is kept radical and underpinned by solidarity and sustainability across national borders is essential if its full transformatory potential is to be unleashed. This requires that co-ops themselves be in constant and dynamic interaction with broader social movements.
The lasting impact of such collective forms of organising on social relations and political identities is demonstrated in Francesca Fiorentini’s analysis of the legacy of the social movements that arose in Argentina in response to its debt crisis ten years ago. This can be seen specifically through the ‘recovered enterprises’ movement, where workers occupied and took control of businesses that were on the brink of bankruptcy and ran them as self-managed co-operatives.
With the devastating Health and Social Care Act set to unleash a period of unprecedented chaos in our health services, The Lancet editor Richard Horton predicts that people will die as a result of government’s insistence on competition, while GP Jon Tomlinson highlights the need to build ‘Occupy Healthcare’ – a movement to reject the idea that the healthcare needs of society can be commodified and governed by market logic.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
The snap general election represents a unique opportunity to defeat this terrible government. We believe that visual artists have a crucial role to play!
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.
Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports
On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines
Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace